minor diplomatic squabble last week after New Zealand trade minister Damien O’Connor said in an interview that if Australia “were to follow us and show respect” by engaging “a little more diplomacy from time to time and be cautious with wording”, then it could have as positive a relationship with China as New Zealand does.
It is no secret that Sino-Australian relations are in a particularly low trough at the moment and O’Connor’s advice was probably unappreciated in Canberra. Officials there would probably have preferred more solidarity from their old friend. But, as inappropriate as O’Connor’s remarks might have been, they do raise a pertinent question facing the smaller countries of the Indo-Pacific region: what is the best foreign policy strategy to manage China’s rise?
The region has been experiencing something of an epochal transformation in the past two decades, moving from a region where US hegemony was unquestioned to one where there is now an apparent revisionist challenger: China.